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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
The dirty truth

By Paul Kenyon
Kenyon Confronts

In the first of a new six-part series, Kenyon Confronts returns with an investigation into security flaws which could allow determined terrorists to strike in the UK. Reporter Paul Kenyon reveals just how easy it was to locate and obtain quantities of lethal material that could be used to make a chemical weapon or dirty bomb.

Cyanide is a key ingredient in nerve gases

We set out trying to put ourselves in the position of a determined terrorist operating in the UK. Would we be able to get the ingredients for two of the most lethal and disruptive types of weapons known?

We were interested in chemical weapons and dirty bombs - those that spread radioactive contamination.

With chemical weapons we easily found the recipe for mustard gas on the internet. It cost us just a couple of dollars from an American site.

The more dangerous chemicals were surprisingly straightforward to obtain
Paul Kenyon
The constituent parts were mostly simple to get hold of because they have legitimate and safe everyday use.

It's only when they are mixed with other chemicals they can become lethal.

The more dangerous chemicals we bought were surprisingly straightforward to obtain.

Radioactive material

We came up with a cover company and told dealers that we had legitimate industrial uses for the chemicals. Out of 10 we approached, only one checked us out properly - the result was that the anti-terrorist squad got onto us. What about the other nine?

For good measure, we bought a ludicrously large amount of cyanide, which is a key ingredient in nerve gases. We thought this would be difficult - it wasn't. We bought enough to kill 500 people.

Building a dirty bomb was going to be more difficult. The key ingredient is radioactive material.

We found alarming security flaws
Paul Kenyon

American research has compiled a list of those radioactive materials thought to be most wanted by terrorists, due to both their availability and the power of the radiation itself. Near the top of the list is something called Iridium 192.

We discovered the main dealer in the UK, and started phoning up, with a cover story that we were businessman wanting to take over the transportation of such materials in the UK.

The company told us details about its movements across the country, the vehicles it was transported in and lots more important information that would be crucial to a terrorist.

We then traced the vans that transport the material around, and found alarming security flaws.

We had decided early on not to actually take the material. We could have done so on several occasions. A terrorist may not have had the same reservations.

Kenyon Confronts: Shopping for Terror was broadcast on Wednesday, 1 October at 19:30 GMT on BBC One.

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